Ventures: Empowering Women in Business
As students hustle and bustle around the Bryant University campus, there is one student that has a much different Hustle than the rest. Melissa Gurzenda, a sophomore at Bryant, is working day and night on building her hustle; “Identified Grace”. Identified Grace is more than just another college venture. It is actually a women empowerment movement started under the idea of providing physical products, such as bracelets and wall art, that empowers women in business and beyond to identify with their inner strength and feel confident when they enter the male-dominated world of business.
Originally conceived in 2018, the business started as just an idea, but after working with accelerators through the Bryant Ventures entrepreneurial think tank program, Melissa was able to lock down manufacturers, partners, and even funding through the Goss Grant to get her business up and running in under three months.
Now ready to roll and in full operation, I was able to sit down with Melissa and discuss the future of her company and the things that got her to this point.
The future for this startup is bright and rich with social impact. The vision within Melissa is to use Identified Grace to impact women in business and beyond. Through early research in new marketplaces, she has defined her focus on the idea of “Activate Your Voice” which she has built into a plated bracelet to appeal to audiences such as activists against racism and social injustice to even social impact artists such as spoken word poets. Melissa is also working on building the company into an online platform where individuals can read motivational and challenging blog posts, videos, and other content in addition to shopping for products.
Throughout her Journey, she has learned a lot, about her product and herself. Identified Grace has helped Melissa find purpose in her day-to-day roles as a student and club leader on campus. She has enjoyed the challenge of managing multiple projects at once, using what she learned in the classroom and applying it to her business, vice versa. It has helped her growing maturity and confidence, understanding that she builds her business knowing very little about entrepreneurship. After she saw its potential, she began evolving her confidence, taking on new risks and trials. One of the biggest contributors to her growth was her participation in Ventures; a student-run entrepreneurial think tank on campus. Ventures assisted Melissa in acknowledging the value of her idea. Before Ventures, funding a business kept her from having the opportunity to start her own. As soon as she joined Ventures, she suddenly had dozens of supporters and an idea that holds the beginning of a key to success for women in business. After three months in ventures, she had negotiated with manufacturers, met with graphic designers to understand CAD, prototype materials, and learn how to use Bryant’s 3D printer. Over the summer, a Ventures accelerator actually drove Melissa to her manufacturer and met with her to create the 3D bracelet for prototyping purposes. Without Ventures, Melissa’s idea would have taken longer to implement due to the resources and funding she lacked prior to joining and earning Goss Prize.
Overall, Melissa and Identified Grace is the perfect example of the innovation and empowerment that is coursing through Bryant’s campus every single day. Melissa is continuing to empower herself and other students every day by being a role model of social entrepreneurship and being an example for generations of future students to show that it is possible to change the world, and business, while still attending classes.
For more info check out www.identifiedgrace.com or @identified_grace on Instagram!